Tag Archives: Vega

Arianespace’s Vega launches European satellite to study the Earth’s winds

Arianespace’s Vega rocket has successfully launched a European satellite dubbed Aeolus designed to study the Earth’s winds.

Funded by the European Space Agency and built by Airbus Defense and Space, the 480 million euro ($550 million) Aeolus mission is nearly two decades in the making. Since receiving ESA’s formal go-ahead in 2002, Aeolus has suffered numerous delays as engineers encountered problems with the mission’s laser instrument.

Aeolus will gather the first comprehensive worldwide measurements of wind speed — over oceans and land masses — from Earth’s surface to an altitude of nearly 100,000 feet (30 kilometers).

Data collected by the Aeolus satellite will be fed into numerical weather prediction models, replacing simulated “boundary conditions” in the computers models with near real-time measurements from space.

The updated leader board for the 2018 launch standings:

22 China
15 SpaceX
8 Russia
6 ULA
5 Arianespace

In the national race, the U.S. and China remained tied at 22.

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Europe commits $107 million for new rocket and space plane

The European Space Agency (ESA) today allocated $107 million to develop both a new larger version of its Vega rocket as well as an orbital version of the spaceplane engineering test vehicle flown in 2015.

The Vega-E will be larger and will give them another rocket capable of competing for launch business, but the space plane project is more interesting.

ESA awarded 36.7 million split between Avio and Thales Alenia Space Italy for Space Rider, an unmanned spaceplane capable of lifting 800 kilograms to LEO for missions up to two months. A single Space Rider should be capable of six missions with refurbishing, according to Thales Alenia Space.

Space Rider leverages technology from ESA’s Intermediate Experimental Vehicle (IXV), which performed a suborbital mission in February 2015, landing in the Pacific Ocean. Unlike its predecessor, Space Rider is designed for ground landings. ESA tasked Thales Alenia Space with building Space Rider’s reentry module based on the IXV.

It seems Europe wants its own version of X-37B and Dream Chaser.

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Arianespace successfully launches Morocco’s first reconnaissance satellite

Capitalism in space: Morocco’s first reconnaissance satellite, built in France, was successfully launched into orbit last night by Arianespace’s Vega rocket.

This was Arianespace’s tenth launch in 2017, one more than its total for 2016 With one more launch scheduled, it appears the company will achieve close to its desired launch rate of one launch per month, despite labor problems in the spring that shut it down for almost two months.

Increasingly, Arianespace’s business (or ArianeGroup, depending on the rocket) seems restricted to European satellites. Its market share of American satellites is more and more being taken by American companies. This doesn’t appear to be reducing the company’s overall launch rate, however, proving once again that competition is not a zero sum game. Introduce it, and instead of the players fighting over a never changing pie of business, the pie grows so that everyone is doing more.

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The first large object identified coming from interstellar space

Astronomers think they have spotted the first large object to come from beyond the solar system.

Based on its apparent brightness, dynamicist Bill Gray calculates that it would have a diameter of about 160 meters (525 feet) if it were a rock with a surface reflectivity of 10%. “It went past the Sun really fast,” Gray notes, “and may not have had time to heat up enough to break apart.”

Now it’s headed out of the solar system, never to return. It passed closest to Earth on October 14th at a distance of about 24,000,000 km (15,000,000 miles), and astronomers worldwide have been tracking it in the hopes of divining its true nature — especially whether it’s displaying any cometary activity.

…According to Gray, Comet PanSTARRS appears to have entered the solar system from the direction of the constellation Lyra, within a couple of degrees of right ascension 18h 50m, declination +35° 13′. That’s tantalizingly close to Vega — and eerily reminiscent of the plot of the movie Contact — but its exact path doesn’t (yet) appear to link any particular star.

This object entered the solar system moving at 26 km (16 miles) per second. At that speed, in 10 million years it would traverse 8,200,000,000,000,000 km — more than 850 light-years.

Reminds me of a really good science fiction novel I read recently. They should keep an eye on it for as long as they can, just in case it suddenly changes course and settles into a more circular orbit around the Sun. In the unlikely case it does that, it might just be the biggest discovery in history.

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Arianespace issues contract to build 10 more Vega rockets

Capitalism in space: Arianespace has awarded the Italian manufacturer a new contract to build ten more Vega rockets.

Of these ten rockets, three already have launch contracts for ESA satellites. I suspect Arianespace already knows of at least seven more government payloads are mandated to use its rockets to get into space, which would explain this rocket order now.

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Arianespace gets another launch contract

Capitalism in space: Arianespace has won new contracts for two launches of its Vega rocket.

More important however was this tidbit:

And, with another two flights to geostationary orbit booked for its Ariane 5 heavy lifter, the Arianespace orderbook now stands at €4.8 billion ($5.3 billion), with 53 launches for 28 customers: 18 using Ariane 5, 25 for the mid-weight Soyuz and 10 for Vega/Vega C.

Compare that manifest with Russia’s, which now only has 15 commercial launch contracts through 2023. Compare it also to SpaceX’s which lists about 30 commercial launches, excluding its NASA cargo and crew missions to ISS.

It would appear that Russia has so far been the big loser in the new competitive launch industry. This can of course change, especially if Russia fixes its production problems, becomes a reliable launch company, and offers competitive prices.

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Italian rocket engine company stock surges in trading debut

Capitalism in space: The stock of the Italian rocket engine company Avio jumped 11 percent in value on its first day of public trading.

The company is the prime contractor for Arianespace’s Vega rocket, and is also making engines and parts for the new Ariane 6 rocket being built by Airbus-Safran.

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Vega launches a Turkish commercial smallsat

The competition heats up: Arianespace’s Vega rocket today successfully launched a Turkish commercial smallsat.

The satellite itself, at 1,000 kilograms or about 2,200 pounds, is at the large end of the smallsat range, which means Vega is not likely competitive with the newer smaller rockets now being designed by a host of new companies to lift even smaller payloads.

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Arianespace launches 5 satellites with Vega rocket

The competition heats up: Arianespace today used its Vega rocket to launch 5 commercial satellites from its spaceport in French Guiana.

Designated Flight VV07, the mission was Vega’s seventh since beginning operations in 2012 (all seven of which were successful), and it further demonstrated the capabilities of a light-lift vehicle that completes Arianespace’s launcher family – joining the company’s medium-lift Soyuz and heavyweight Ariane 5 in reliable side-by-side operations from the Spaceport in French Guiana. Vega is provided to Arianespace by Italy’s ELV S.P.A., which is the industrial prime contractor.

Tonight’s success also marked the first time since entering its commercial phase that Vega carried passengers on a single launch for two customers/users that are from outside the European market: Terra Bella is a Google company and the four SkySat satellites are its initial payloads entrusted to Arianespace; while PerúSAT-1 was orbited under a turnkey agreement between Airbus Defence and Space and Peru’s CONIDA national space agency.

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Contract to build upgraded Vega rocket signed

The competition heats up: The European Space Agency today signed a contract to develop an upgraded version of its Vega rocket.

With respect to the VEGA configuration currently in operation, VEGA C aims to increase the load capacity of the orbital launcher up to 50%. Together with a further increase in operational flexibility, while maintaining its unrivalled orbital precision, it is expected to expand the capability to transport in the same flight a larger number of small satellites, in different orbital planes, or larger satellites. The new version of VEGA will be flight qualified in late 2018 for an entry into service as early as 2019. The group of countries which already participated in the development of VEGA, with Italy playing a major role with a 65% participation, welcomes now the entry of Germany.

I get the impression from this article that Vega is being used by ESA to spread the pork around, since to get Ariane 6 built they had to agree to not do so and give the work and control entirely to Airbus Safran. I thus wonder how competitive Vega will truly be.

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Test flight of Europe’s first prototype space plane has been rescheduled

The competition heats up: Preparations have resumed for a February 11 test flight of a European prototype space plane, initially scheduled for November but cancelled at the last minute because managers suddenly discovered its launch path was going to go over land.

The launch trajectory of the IXV space plane on a suborbital trajectory will differ from the Vega rocket’s previous flights, which flew north from the space center with satellites heading for high-inclination polar orbits. The launch of IXV will head east from Vega’s launch pad, and the geometry of the French Guiana coastline means it will fly over land in the first phase of the launch sequence.

Officials said they slightly adjusted the launch track to alleviate the the safety concern.

The four-stage Vega rocket was stacked on the launch pad at the Guiana Space Center, and the IXV spacecraft was about to be fueled with hydrazine maneuvering propellant when officials announced the delay in October. A ship tasked with retrieving the space plane after splashdown in the Pacific Ocean had already left port in Italy when news of the launch delay was released.

I remain suspicious about the cause of the delay in November. How could they not have known about the launch trajectory until the last second? Instead, I suspect it occurred because of politics higher up in ESA related to Italian, German, and French tensions over the future of Arianespace. The Italians are the lead on this space plane project, to the apparent chagrin of the French, who mostly run the launch facility in French Guiana. Moreover, it appears the Italians have generally sided with the Germans against the French in the Ariane 6 design negotiations. I wonder if the delay was instigated by higher management in an effort to influence those negotiations.

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Controversy surrounding IXV flight cancellation

Italian officials are suggesting politics or incompetence for the sudden cancellation Wednesday of the November test flight of Europe’s IXV experimental spaceplane.

ESA and CNES officials up to now have either declined to comment or, in the case of ESA, said they were at a loss to explain why a program whose mission profile has not changed in several years is now suddenly stalled for [range] safety issues that in principle should have been aired and resolved long ago.

One official, saying he could not believe that the two agencies simply forgot to evaluate the safety issues, said he preferred to suspect political motives. “Look, we are about to send a spacecraft and lander to Mars, in one year,” this official said. “Europe has rendezvoused with a comet a decade after the [Rosetta comet-chaser] satellite was launched. You want me to believe that somehow the agencies just forgot to evaluate safety? That is too far-fetched. I would rather believe there is some political motive.”

The claim is that no one ever evaluated the range issues in sending the Vega rocket to the east instead of its normal polar orbit trajectory. The Italian officials are suggesting that either the officials who cancelled the mission are incompetent, or that their competition with France within ESA over launch vehicles (Ariane 6 vs Vega) prompted the cancellation.

Europe’s lead launch-vehicle nation is France, which initially balked at participating in the Vega program. A French minister said that in Europe, launch vehicles are French. The French government declined to allow the export, to Italy, of the avionics suite that guides Vega, forcing Italy to develop its own. Italy has since done so and successfully flown it on Vega. As it stands now, one official said, France must accept the idea that with Vega, Italy has led development of a vehicle that at least in principle resembles an intercontinental ballistic missile. “Some people don’t like that,” this official said.

Either way, this cancellation combined with the difficult and extended disagreements within ESA over replacing Ariane 5 suggest that the future of this European partnership is becoming increasingly shaky.

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Arianespace today scrubbed the third launch of its new Vega rocket at T-minus 10 minutes due to a technical problem.

Arianespace today scrubbed the third launch of its new Vega rocket at T-minus 10 minutes due to a technical problem.

The reliability of Arianespace’s rockets has always been the company’s big selling point, so a launch scrub is very unusual for them. Then again, this is only the third launch of Vega, so we shouldn’t be surprised if they are still working out the kinks.

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Arianespace will not be able to set its launch manifest for the remainder of this year until late July.

The competition heats up: Arianespace will not be able to set its launch manifest for the remainder of this year until late July.

The year’s third Ariane 5 mission is scheduled for launch in late July carrying the large Alphasat satellite for mobile satellite services operator Inmarsat of London and the European Space Agency (ESA); and India’s Insat-3D telecommunications satellite.

Beyond that, Israel said, it is unclear which commercial payloads will be placed on which of the two remaining Ariane 5 flights, scheduled for this fall, or what the Ariane 5 manifest looks like for 2014. A big question is whether Arianespace has any slots open in the Ariane 5 manifest in 2014 to accommodate new customers who want to switch to Ariane 5 because their selected vehicle is late.

This article not only suggests that Arianespace has more business than it can handle, it is also provides evidence that the company is scrambling to cut costs in order to compete.

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A new Arianespace rocket

A new Arianespace rocket starts its journey to French Guiana.

This first launch, the Vega qualification flight, is planned for January 2012 and will pave the way for five missions that aim to demonstrate the system’s flexibility. . . . Vega is compatible with payload masses ranging from 300 kg to 2500 kg, depending on the type and altitude of the orbit required by the customers. The benchmark is for 1500 kg into a 700 km-altitude polar orbit.

This rocket is comparable to SpaceX’s now discontinued Falcon 1, though it can put more payload into orbit.

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